The complete primary structure of the core protein of rat NG2, a large, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan expressed on O2A progenitor cells, has been determined from cDNA clones. These cDNAs hybridize to an mRNA species of 8.9 kbp from rat neural cell lines. The total contiguous cDNA spans 8,071 nucleotides and contains an open reading frame for 2,325 amino acids. The predicted protein is an integral membrane protein with a large extracellular domain (2,224 amino acids), a single transmembrane domain (25 amino acids), and a short cytoplasmic tail (76 amino acids). Based on the deduced amino acid sequence and immunochemical analysis of proteolytic fragments of NG2, the extracellular region can be divided into three domains: an amino terminal cysteine-containing domain which is stabilized by intrachain disulfide bonds, a serine-glycine-containing domain to which chondroitin sulfate chains are attached, and another cysteine-containing domain. Four internal repeats, each consisting of 200 amino acids, are found in the extracellular domain of NG2. These repeats contain a short sequence that resembles the putative Ca(++)-binding region of the cadherins. The sequence of NG2 does not show significant homology with any other known proteins, suggesting that NG2 is a novel species of integral membrane proteoglycan.
The NG2 chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan is a membrane-associated molecule of approximately 500 kD with a core glycoprotein of 300 kD. Both the complete proteoglycan and a smaller quantity of the 300-kD core are immunoprecipitable with polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies against purified NG2. From some cell lines, the antibodies coprecipitate NG2 and type VI collagen, the latter appearing on SDS-PAGE as components of 140 and 250 kD under reducing conditions. The immunoprecipitation of type VI collagen does not seem to be due to recognition of the collagen by the antibodies, but rather to binding of the collagen to NG2. Studies on the NG2-type VI collagen complex suggest that binding between the two molecules is mediated by protein-protein interactions rather than by ionic interactions involving the glycosaminoglycans. Immunofluorescence double labeling in frozen sections of embryonic rat shows that NG2 and type VI collagen are colocalized in structures such as the intervertebral discs and arteries of the spinal column. In vitro the two molecules are highly colocalized on the surface of several cell lines. Treatment of these cells resulting in a change in the distribution of NG2 on the cell surface also causes a parallel change in type VI collagen distribution. Our results suggest that cell surface NG2 may mediate cellular interactions with the extracellular matrix by binding to type VI collagen.